Thursday, November 11, 2010

Discussion Question 11 (Solutions and Review) comments due Nov 23rd

Conservation biologists have been remiss by failing to link human health to healthy ecosystems. Consider an ecosystem of any size in your region and ask how might protecting or restoring that ecosystem benefit human health?


Megan Lim said...

The Arroyo Burro Estuary and Mesa Creek restoration project aimed to restore coastal estuary, riparian, and coastal sage scrub habitat. The restorers realized that these sites had a major water component so the sites were included in a larger water quality monitoring project. Chosen sites were monitored for indicator bacteria whose presence suggested the colonization of other harmful bacteria. This was a great connection to make because the health of these habitats are strongly linked to the quality of their water. If the water quality is not good, plants will not establish and animals will not be recruited. Ensuring the water quality is restored also benefits human health because these sites are used recreationally by the public. Other restoration efforts were made such as waste removal of trash, furniture, appliances, bicycles, mattresses and grocery carts to mitigate the amount of human pollutants that were entering the habitats.

A scientific paper that supports this restoration project’s goals is “Wetlands and Human Health : An Overview” by Dale and Connelly (2012). The positive human health impacts they list are recreational, mental, therapeutic, and social. The negative human health impacts they list are disease and pollutant related. In the case of the Arroyo Burro Estuary and Mesa Creek restoration, the negative health benefits would be mitigated because improving water quality tackles bacteria, which could infect humans, and removing pollutants, such as trash and heavy metals. Although the wetland habitats the authors mention are not in the area, the potential diseases transmitted by degraded wetlands are serious: schistosomiasis and cholera. In Bangladesh, non-native plants help cholera establish. If the health of the habitat was better, such as no non-natives, cholera would not be as easily contracted.

Dale anad Connelly (2012) Wetlands and Human Health: An Overview. Wetlands Ecology and Managment. 20, 165-171.

MeganBurwell said...

The Ventura River Watershed encompasses 228 square miles of land and drains out through the Ventura River with tributaries including Matilija Creek, North Fork Matilija Creek, San Antonio Creek, and Canada Larga. While this area is monitored regularly through public and government groups in order to ensure water quality and policy compliance. Several different groups focus on various aspects of the watershed including the Ventura River itself, wetland protection and outflow safety. Interestingly enough I couldn’t find much on how this watershed could affect human health.

With the Ventura River mouth located just north of the Ventura Fairgrounds the water quality is of high concern, especially for those using the beaches of Ventura County. One particular problem is water quality after rains, since the tributaries of Ventura run into the Ventura River and then into the Pacific Ocean many diseases are present in the ocean near the River mouth after rains; Hepatitis, salmonellosis, shigellosis to name a few. Apart from actual pathogens another concern is that of the runoff of pesticides and fertilizers into the watershed, which then goes into the ocean (seeing a trend?)

Watersheds and their tributaries are obviously important to monitor and protect, as they have a major impact on downstream water sources. In a paper by Jamieson et al the use of watersheds to evaluate microbial pollutants is discussed. This type of research can be used to educate the public on water quality importance and ways they can help. As humans use the ocean recreationally and commercially it is imperative that we do what we can to protect it.

R. Jamieson, R. Gordon, D. Joy, H. Lee, Assessing microbial pollution of rural surface waters: A review of current watershed scale modeling approaches, Agricultural Water Management, Volume 70, Issue 1, 15 October 2004, Pages 1-17, ISSN 0378-3774, 10.1016/j.agwat.2004.05.006.

Megan Lim said...

In section, both discussion leaders gave examples of wetland health related to human health. We talked about the effects on global warming and water quality. Another example from a classmate was a storm drain project. Most of the examples we came up with were for wetland and water related issues. Andy asked us if we could think of an example where restoration would be detrimental to human health. He gave an example of filling in a wetland to get rid of malaria habitat but that was countered with the argument that wetland habitat can be the focal point of a community. The class seemed to generally agree that restoration of habitats would lead to improvements in human health.

CC6610 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CC6610 said...

The World Health Organization (WHO) links human health and the health of an ecosystem as “indirect, displaced in space and time, and dependent on a number of modifying forces” and that “human health ultimately depends upon ecosystem products and services.”

In general, a healthy ecosystem benefits human health by providing resources. These resources can range from fresh water to food to habitat. As habitat degradation continues, the ozone depletes at a faster rate, species diversity drops, and resources for all living creatures, including humans, deplete at a faster rate.

The San Bernardino National Forest has received restoration grants in the past and looks to keep protecting the current boundaries of the forest. By funding the projects and allowing restoration to occur, humans are indirectly placing that money back into their own pockets. Keeping the national forest healthy provides a positive feedback on human health. This particular forest provides fresh water to the citizens in the form of bottled water. Decline in the habitat results in a decline in local profit which leads to budget cuts within the community. This domino effect ends up hurting community projects that aim at restoration. Living in southern California also poses another threat: smog emissions. The surrounding ecosystem can help to deter the unhealthy air that humans are leaving behind. By removing the forest, we are releasing all the carbon dioxide held within the trees and like plant species back into the environment. Depleting the ozone has been proven to be detrimental to human health by way of rise in chronic health related issues.

The biggest aid healthy ecosystems serve is helping humans to treat disease prevention rather than spending money on curing diseases. When humans are surrounded by diverse communities, the general health of the population rises. We are supporting our own health and supporting the health of all species that reside within the national forest. We preserve local riverbeds with fresh water, we preserve animal species that keep the balance of nature intact, and we preserve plant species that can range from medicinal use to food resources and shelter for local fauna.

With a town sitting at the edge of a national forest, the ecosystem provides flood regulation and water purification as well as an aesthetic and recreational use to the citizens. Protecting the San Bernardino National Forest results in better human health with less causes for disease treatment.
-Crystal Chavez

Simon Moore said...

Fresh water is one of the most important resources for humans – we use it to grow food, drink, wash, cook, for hygiene and to dilute and recycle waste. Yet our intervention with its natural cycle is leading to increased decline of available safe water. Locally, we have altered multiple ecosystems and decreased their abilities to provide essential services in the maintenance of our water supplies and in the sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Wetlands are a key example of this – worldwide around 50% of mangrove ecosystems have been destroyed, yet they are crucial to filtration of pollutants from water, protecting from erosion due to wave action and reducing global warming. In California the main issues are that human pressures have caused many areas to be urbanized and that agricultural run-off from watersheds has led to eutrophication. In both these cases the ability of the wetland to provide its services is hampered, either because of removal or a dominance of algae which causes the whole system to crash.

By protection and restoration of wetland habitats it is possible to regain the vital services they provide. UCSB students were successful in a project in Carpinteria that encouraged horitculturalists to minimize their outputs of nitrates into the watershed from their inefficient systems within their greenhouses. Over a few years it had the effect of significantly reducing eutrophication, allowing the ecosystem’s heath to recover and consequently benefiting the surrounding community.

The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment Board. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being (2005).

Åshild Saastad said...

A healthy ecosystem provides us with several services that are essential for our health. Oxygen, drinking water, food and shelter are all important for our health.

Mjøsa is Norway’s largest lake with a size on 363 square meters. Mjøsa have about 20 different fish species, such as trout, grayling, smelt and perch. A lot of birds preys on the fishes in the lake. The lake also contains a lot of phytoplankton, algae and other small water organisms. Mjøsa provides 80 000 people with drinking water.

Mjøsa provide us with drinking water, irrigation of agriculture, and fish.

A major problem in Mjøsa is the accumulation of Brominated flame retardants (BFR) that have an inhibitory effect on the ignition of combustible organic materials. BFR are commonly used in electronic products as a means of reducing the flammability of the products. This accumulates in the aquatic organisms inn Mjøsa. BFR’s are in especially high concentrations in the top of the food web – in the fishes and birds. In humans brominated flame retardants can be found in blood and breast milk. There is lack of information in which the BFR is dangerous for humans. But in contrast BFR disturbe the nervous, immune and hormone system in fishes, sea birds and sea mammals. The only way to prevent further accumulation is to prohibit BFR in products.

Excess of nutrients can throw the ecosystem out of balance. These nutrients enter the lakes from agricultural runoff and untreated sewage.

A large number of phosphorus is released into Mjøsa. Increased levels of phosphorus cause algal blooms and eutrophication (explosive growth of photosynthetic organisms) in freshwater environments. Eutrophication is detrimental to many forms of aquatic life because dense floating mats of algae reduce the penetration of light to plants and algae. When the algae die and sink, they are decomposed by bacteria that deplete the water’s dissolved oxygen. This can make the oxygen levels so low that the majority of fish and other aquatic life either leave the area or die. This provide the people that live near Mjøsa with less fish. By restoring the ecosystem with restrictions of emissions of phosphorus, algal blooming can be prevented, and the ecosystem will be healthier.

If the sewage is discharged too close the water intake it can transmit disease to humans and other animals. It is therefore important with sewage treatment, before the sewage enters the water. Sewage treatment is the process of removing the contaminants from sewage to produce liquid and solid suitable for discharge to the environment or for reuse. This will provide the people around the lake with healthy drinking water. But despite the sewage treatment the emissions of sewage can lead to eutrophication and algal blooming, that again disturbs the food web in the lake. By preventing sewage entirely the people near the lake would be provided by healthy drinking water, and they can catch more fishes because the fish populations would not decrease due to eutrophication. The catching of fishes must be restricted so that the fish population do not decrease.